(CBS) — At Spirit Hockey Camp in suburban Darien this week, 110 kids young and old used power and grit on the ice.
And the power of prayer off the ice.
The program’s conception began 30 years ago, with Chicago businessman David Gomez and then-Chicago Blackhawk Bill Gardner.
“We talked about having a school for children, teaching them about hockey values, virtues and it took off,” Gomez tells CBS 2’s Rob Johnson.
“There were plenty of dry times for Chicago hockey, and there was a lot of kids that wanted to play the game,” Gardner says.
After several years, Gardner’s hockey career took him all over the world and the program went dormant, until this year. That is when Gomez’s sons, Richard and Christopher, told their father they wanted to revive Spirit Hockey.
They got a huge assist from Springfield bishop Tom Paprocki, the “Holy Goalie,” who’s served in multiple roles this week off the ice and on it.
He says faith and sports have been the most important things in his life.
“This morning we talked about failure and fortitude — that’s true on the ice and that’s true in life. You’ve got to deal with failure and fortitude,” Paprocki says.
For 11-year-old Warrenville goalie Benjamin Phelps, this is not your usual hockey camp.
“If feel like I’m at home, I feel like I’m at church,” he says.
For his mother, Marcia, there is added meaning. Her husband and Benjamin’s father, Chris, died last year. Hockey was their thing.
“Sad, horrible things happen, but you can learn from them and grow and get strength,” she says.
Says Gomez: “I believe there’s a god, so however you reach him, that’s great with us and you’ll find him here somehow, someway.”
There is a fee for the week-long camp for those who can pay, but Gomez says those who cannot have never been turned away.
For more information, click here to go the camp’s website.